Nigerian businessman and CEO of Air Peace, Allen Ifechukwu Athan Onyema, has been charged with bank fraud and money laundering by the United States Department of Justice.
The development caused heated arguments among Nigerians on social media regarding the real nature of the fraud the prominent Nigerian business mogul was accused of committing, especially when the charge did not indicate an individual was duped or defrauded.
In this explainer, Legit.ng highlights the offences Onyema was accused of committing, according to the charge sheets released filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia Atalanta Division.
1. Two Nigerians are indicted in the alleged fraud: Allen Onyema and Ejiroghene Eghagha
Allen Onyema is the CEO and founder of Air Peace while Ejiroghene Eghagha is Air Peace's Chief of Administration and Finance
2. Onyema was charged with bank fraud and money laundering for allegedly moving more than $20 million from Nigeria through United States bank accounts in a scheme involving false documents based on the purchase of airplanes
3. Eghagha was charged with bank fraud and committing aggravated identity theft in connection with the scheme
4. Onyema was accused of corrupting the US banking system through the use of falsified documents
5. The Air Peace boss was also accused of setting up numerous NGOs for the purpose of his alleged scam
6. Onyema was also accused of using fake documents to prove he purchased aircraft from Springfield Aviation Company LLC, a business registered in Georgia. According to the charge, no aircraft was purchased.
7. The Nigerian business mogul was also accused of laundering over $16 million of the proceeds of the fraud by transferring it to other accounts
8. Summarily, both Onyema and Eghagha were indicted on one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, three counts of bank fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit credit application fraud, and three counts of credit application fraud.
9. Onyema was singularly charged with 27 counts of money laundering while Eghagha was individually charged with one count of aggravated identity theft
Note that both Onyeama and Eghagha are presumed innocent until the US government is able to prove that they are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.
Below are some reactions of Nigerians regarding the indictment:
Meanwhile, a warrant of arrest has been issued against Onyema. The warrant was signed by Justin Anand, an American magistrate of the US District Court of the Northern District of Georgia.
The Air Peace boss might be extradited to face the charges against him as the US and Nigeria have a mutual legal assistance policy that allows both countries to extradite suspects facing criminal charges.
Similarly, the Air Peace boss said he is determined to prove his innocence and has employed a team of legal luminaries to defend him.
A statement from the law firm of A.O. Alegeh & Co said that Onyema is ready to defend himself over the allegations made against him by the US Attorney.
Legit.ng gathered that the law firm also noted that he has a track record built on honesty and integrity, adding that he would take all necessary steps to clear his good name and hard-earned reputation.
Recall that Onyema's heroic act was recently commended by Nigerians when he volunteered to airlift Nigerians who were victims of xenophobic attacks in South Africa back to the country.
The Air Peace boss was honoured by the House of Representatives for the patriotic act.
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